Jewish Public Prayer

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Certain modern realities have found their way into Jewish liturgy. For instance, most diaspora communities, including those of the United States today, publicly recited a prayer asking for God’s guidance and protection for the officers of government. I remember myself seeing this in synagogues in the former Soviet Union. Clearly, it was important for Jews there to pray for the government. Whether they believed that God was listening or not, they knew that somebody else was listening. That was clearly the prudent thing to do.

Many synagogues today include prayers on behalf of the State of Israel. Here, again, we encounter that unique link in Judaism between religion and a particular land.

Almost all prayers, specially the Amidah, are recited in the plural form. This is a communal expression. “We are praying to God, not I”. Public prayer requires a quorum of ten, known as a minyan. Orthodox Jews today requires ten males, whereas conservative and reform Judaism expresses egalitarianism and consider men and women equal as part of the quorum of ten.

What is important, though, is that any ten people can constitute a quorum. No rabbinic or priestly officials are required for prayer. Although those blessed with a good voice and a knowledge of the traditional tunes would commonly requested to lead the service. Anybody, however, can do it.